books

Poems of Consummation
by Vicente Aleixandre
Translated by Stephen Kessler
Black Widow Press
Available through booksellers or online

First published in Spain in 1968, when the author was seventy, Vicente Aleixandre’s Poems of Consummation is an eloquent lyrical encounter with themes of Eros, memory, old age, death, and oblivion.  In language both elemental and metaphysical, simple and profound, sensual and philosophical, the poet explores the paradoxes of consciousness in the face of individual mortality, celebrating the kiss and the sexual embrace as mysteriously enduring evidence of having lived.  Without feel-good bromides or false optimism, yet with courage and a bracing engagement with unanswerable questions, Aleixandre reveals the consolation and inspiration of language pressed to the limits of the unsayable.  In Stephen Kessler’s translation, echoes of the Spanish can be heard in an American English that sings to the contemporary ear with the musical nuance, clarity, strangeness, beauty, and depth of the originals.

One of Spain’s leading twentieth-century poets, Vicente Aleixandre received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1977.  Born in Seville in 1898, he came of age in Madrid as a key member of the Generation of 1927—a cohort that included such figures as Rafael Alberti, Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí, Luis Cernuda, Federico García Lorca, Jorge Guillén and Pedro Salinas, among others—and remained at his family home there during and after the civil war because of his fragile health.  As the resident link to that generation (most of them driven into exile or, in Lorca’s case, killed), Aleixandre played a crucial role in mentoring younger Spanish poets, in addition to producing more than a dozen important volumes of original poetry and prose.  His selected poems in English, A Longing for the Light, appeared in 1978.  He died in Madrid in 1984.

“There are delights to be found throughout, both in the Spanish text and in Kessler's versions, which preserve the poet's voice as well as the sense and spirit of the originals, even their line breaks, and are exciting poems in English because of their fresh imagery, musicality, and surprising turns of phrase. In short, while remaining faithful to the Spanish, the translator is attentive to the texture of English and isn't afraid to take imaginative risks.... [T]he poems and the book as a whole become an interplay not only between two languages, but one that conjures up magic on the page. Vicente Aleixandre's Poems of Consummation, in Stephen Kessler's consummate translation, deserves all the readers its language and mystery can attract.” —Daniel Shapiro, American Book Review.

For Lucina Schell's review in Zoland Poetry, click here.

To read John Taylor's review in The Arts Fuse, click here.

To read Art Beck's review in Your Impossible Voice, click here.

 
Borges: The SonnetsThe Sonnets
by Jorge Luis Borges
Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Stephen Kessler
Penguin Classics
Available through booksellers or online

The complete sonnets of Borges, published together for the first time in any language, in a bilingual edition, explore the writer's obsessive themes—time, eternity, memory, oblivion, blindness, the labyrinth, the dream, the garden, the soldier, the hoodlum, history, ancestors, literary and philosophical forebears—in the classical form of the sonnet, revealing a side of his literary practice unfamiliar to readers of his fiction.  More intimate and reflective than his famously cerebral stories, these poems open a new portal into the work of one of the 20th century's greatest writers.  More than half of the translations are by Stephen Kessler, with the rest by such distinguished translators as Alastair Reid, Edith Grossman, Robert Fitzgerald, Charles Tomlinson, Mark Strand, Willis Barnstone and others.

 


coverDesolation of the Chimera: Last Poems
by Luis Cernuda
White Pine Press, 2009, bilingual edition
Recipient of the Academy of American Poets
2010 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award

Available through booksellers or directly from the publisher

Luis Cernuda (1902-1963) was one of the leading poets of Spain’s legendary Generation of 1927, a constellation of creative genius that included such stars as Federico García Lorca, Luis Buñuel, Rafael Alberti, Jorge Guillén, Vicente Aleixandre, Salvador Dalí and Pedro Salinas.  Cernuda left Spain during the civil war in 1938, lived for two decades in Great Britain and the United States, and spent the final years of his life in Mexico where he died of a heart attack at sixty-one.  Desolation of the Chimera is the first major selection in English from his final two books, Con las horas contadas (With Time Running Out) and Desolación de la Quimera.  These poems are the work of a master with nothing left to prove.  He writes as if for himself, exiled as he is from his native land, ironically unaware that even then his star was rising among younger Spaniards as one of the most important voices of his time.  His alienation, cosmopolitanism, open homosexuality, estheticism raised to a moral principle, and the raw honesty of his vision have resonated increasingly over the last fifty years with Spanish and Latin American readers.  Of Cernuda, Octavio Paz wrote: “Few modern poets, in any language, give us this chilling sense of knowing ourselves to be before a man who really speaks, effectively possessed by the fatality and the lucidity of passion.”

To listen to a talk on Luis Cernuda by Stephen Kessler, click here.

“His later works have been rendered into English with sensitivity, understanding, and grace by translator-poet Stephen Kessler. The poems in Desolation of the Chimera reflect the intense passion and despair of Cernuda's writing. They are nothing less than a gift to the English-language reader.” Edith Grossman, in her judge’s citation for the 2010 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award of the Academy of American Poets

 
 


coverEyeseas [Les Ziaux]
by Raymond Queneau
co-translated from French with Daniela Hurezanu
Black Widow Press, 2008, bilingual edition
Available through booksellers and online

Raymond Queneau (1903-1976), associated in the 1920s with the Dada and Surrealist movements in Paris, was later one of the founders and key members of Oulipo, or Workshop of Potential Literature. Author of several experimental novels, including Exercises in Style and Zazie dans le métro (which was made into a film by Louis Malle), Queneau is also an important poet, and this bilingual volume brings to life in English for the first time the range of his voices, modes, moods and styles, from the playfully absurd to the darkly existential. Dating from 1920 to 1943, the poems span the first long phase of his creative maturity, whose wit, formal inventiveness, philosophical seriousness, lyric elegance and sense of fun are faithfully represented in these translations.

Eyeseas is a rare achievement, a landmark of expert poetic experimentation and deftly creative translation.” —American Poet

 


Written in Water: The Prose Poems of Luis Cernuda
City Lights Books, 2004
Available through booksellers and online
Winner of a 2004 Lambda Literary Award, this book collects in one volume exquisite writings by one of Spain’s great 20th-century poets. “If the art of poetry has its saints, like Dickinson and Paul Celan,” writes Harold Bloom in his book Genius, “then Luis Cernuda is among them.”

“In these memories and landscapes, in these notes toward the history of his sensibility, there is great objectivity: the poet doesn’t set out to fantasize, or to lie to himself or anyone else. He attempts only to illuminate, with an almost impersonal light, something very personal: a few moments in his life. (But is it truly ours, this life we live?)” —Octavio Paz

“Cernuda’s brief meditations on love, war and exile collected for the first time in one volume show the poet stretching his language and imaginative skills to capture abstracted emotions—an idle afternoon, or the deep longing of a man cut off not only from his homeland but also from a world seemingly determined to keep itself at war….In Stephen Kessler’s idiomatic translation, the impressionistic snapshots are compulsively readable.” —St. Petersburg Times

“There is absolutely no artifice in his warm and candid writings, but they are, as it were, constantly aware of their artifice. Finding words for the mute torments of his sensibility, he considers himself to be ‘a sleepless voice calling who knows what or to whom in night’s nameless immensity.’ A permanent tension consequently underlies the calm, if syntactically intricate, surface of his prose (which has been sensitively rendered by Stephen Kessler, who also provides an insightful preface).” —Chelsea

“Stephen Kessler’s brilliant translation...has to be one of the best books of Spanish poetry to appear in English this year....Kessler needs to be acknowledged as one of our best translators today, and this book brings to life a key Spanish poet.” —Ray Gonzalez, The Bloomsbury Review

 
Aphorisms
by César Vallejo
Green Integer, 2002, bilingual edition
Available through booksellers and online
Taken from Vallejo's notebooks, these fragments, jottings, notes, and pungent zingers offer illuminating glimpses into the working mind of a writer considered by many to be one of the most original voices of 20th-century poetry.
 
Machu Picchu
Photos by Barry Brukoff with text by Pablo Neruda
Bulfinch, 2001, bilingual edition
Available through booksellers and online
Stephen Kessler’s new translation of Neruda’s classic Alturas de Machu Picchu accompanies Barry Brukoff’s stunning photographs in a gorgeous coffeetable book.

“This book is an offering that combines a poet’s intuition and an artist’s perception, Neruda’s words and Brukoff’s photographs; but none of it would be possible without the patient and silent work of Stephen Kessler, who translated Neruda’s poems into English with as much passion as literary rigor.” —from the Introduction by Isabel Allende
 
coverImageNeededOde to Typography
by Pablo Neruda
Peter Koch, Printer, 1998, bilingual edition
Available online from the printer and publisher
Elegant, limited edition, clothbound letterpress chapbook with six aquatints by Joseph Goldyne. Possibly still available to collectors from the printer and publisher.
 
coverImageNeededSave Twilight: Selected Poems of Julio Cortázar
City Lights Books, 1997, bilingual edition
Available through booksellers and online
“Published posthumously in Mexico as one volume in 1984 under the title Salvo el crepúsculo, this eclectic but well-crafted collection has been pared down and gorgeously translated for the first time into English by Stephen Kessler….Kessler’s translations in Save Twilight are uniformly excellent and always manage to transform Cortázar’s argentinisms into a natural-sounding English….Cortázar would undoubtedly have approved highly of Kessler’s superior work.” —Translation Review
 
coverImageNeededFrom Beirut
by Mahmoud Darwish
Pygmy Forest Press, 1992
Available online
Translated from the Spanish version of Ikram Antaki (from the original Arabic), this long poem chronicles, with anguished lyricism, the bombing of Lebanon by the Israeli Defense Forces in the summer of 1982. A powerful work of testimony, not without its postmodern ironies.
 
coverImageNeededAkrílica
by Juan Felipe Herrera
Alcatraz Editions, 1989, bilingual edition
Available online or from Stephen Kessler
Co-translated with Sesshu Foster, this Spanish-language collection by the well-known Chicano poet is typical of what Foster has called Herrera’s “rock-and-roll surrealism,” his linguistic inventiveness and his extraordinarily fertile imagination.

“This may be the first book of the post-Reaganite era, an era when English-only, evasive, nonreferential poetry flooded the market. Juan Felipe Herrera cares as much about people as he does landscapes. His energy is boundless. His imagination thick. He restores integrity to surrealism, an esthetic which has recently fallen on hard times. He writes in the language of 21st-century America.” —Ishmael Reed

“Foster and Kessler’s translation captures the elemental rhythms and abstract images of [Herrera’s] style, which are rooted in the Hispanic-American urban experience.” —Genny Lim

“Juan Felipe Herrera may well be the finest Chicano poet writing today.” —John Oliver Simon, Poetry Flash
 
coverImageNeededThe Funhouse
by Fernando Alegría
Arte Público Press, 1986
Available online
Alegría’s darkly satirical novel of a Latin American immigrant’s bizarre experiences in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960s describes a Boschian urban landscape of outrageous excess.
 
coverImageNeededChanging Centuries: Selected Poems of Fernando Alegría
Latin American Literary Review Press, bilingual edition
Available online
“His is a large public voice, a voice that is missing in the poetry of many writers in the United States….Like Czeslaw Milosz, Nazim Hikmet, and Pablo Neruda, Alegría’s concerns move personal experience over the boundary into historical time….The very high quality of the translations is the result of Alegría’s close collaboration with poet Stephen Kessler.” —Palo Alto Weekly
 
coverImageNeededWidows
by Ariel Dorfman
Pantheon, 1983, in print again from Seven Stories Press
Available online
“The plot resounds with the moral thunder of classic drama, specifically that of Antigone and The Trojan Women.” —Alan Cheuse, The New York Times Book Review

“In Widows Dorfman achieves a real feat in Latin American literature by writing a book which is neither overpowered by sheer force of physical place nor the immediacy of the political situation….More than a mere condemnation of violence Widows becomes a sort of analysis….This truly remarkable novella (beautifully translated by Stephen Kessler) is a work of protest, subtle and evocative but nevertheless strong and beautiful.” —American Book Review
 
coverImageNeededHomage to Neruda
by Eight Chilean Poets
Ediciones Puelche, 1978, bilingual edition

Available online
Poems by Fernando Alegría, Efraín Barquero, Oscar Hahn, Osvaldo Rodriguez, Omar Lara, Sergio Macías, Miguel Moreno Monroy, and Pablo Neruda.
 
coverImageNeededDestruction or Love
by Vicente Aleixandre
Green Horse Press, 1976, bilingual edition
Available online
A selection from La destrucción o el amor, originally published in Spain in 1933 and awarded the Premio Nacional de Literatura. Erotic surrealist love lyrics by the Spanish Nobel laureate of 1977, one of the first books of Aleixandre to appear in English.

“I have read with enormous pleasure your superb translations of Aleixandre….Rarely have I ever been so impressed, so moved by a book as I was with Destruction or Love. Really, you have done American poetry an enormous service.” —Mark Strand, in a letter to the translator
 
ANTHOLOGIES
Stephen Kessler’s translations also figure prominently in the following anthologies:

coverImageNeededThe Essential Neruda: Selected Poems
Edited by Mark Eisner
City Lights Books, 2004, bilingual edition
Available through booksellers and online

 
coverImageNeededSelected Poems: Jorge Luis Borges
Edited by Alexander Coleman
Viking Penguin, 1999, bilingual edition
Available through booksellers and online
 

coverImageNeededChilean Writers in Exile
Edited by Fernando Alegría
Fictions by Fernando Alegría, Alfonso Gonzáles Dagnino, Poli Délano, Ariel Dorfman, Juan A. Epple, Claudio Giaconi, Ánibal Quijada, and Leandro Urbina
The Crossing Press, 1985
Available online

 
coverImageNeededA Longing for the Light: Selected Poems of Vicente Aleixandre
Edited by Lewis Hyde
Harper & Row, 1979; Copper Canyon Press, 1985, bilingual edition
Available through booksellers and online
MAGAZINES
Harvard Review, Agni, Or, New American Writing, Red Wheelbarrow, Calque, Rhino, Zoland Poetry, Chelsea, Osiris, The Kenyon Review, Basalt, The New Yorker, Exquisite Corpse, Harper's, Two Lines, Hambone, Zyzzyva, The Threepenny Review, New Orleans Review, Sulphur River Literary Review, Poetry International, Parnassus, Sentence, The American Poetry Review, Mother Jones, Poetry Flash, Translation, Field, Words Without Borders, and many others.




info@stephenkessler.comCopyright © 2007-2013 Stephen Kessler